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Investigation reveals illegal cattle ranching in Paraguay’s vanishing Chaco

22 / 12 / 2018, Mongabaycom News

South America’s Gran Chaco is a hot, semi-arid biome that stretches from eastern Bolivia down through western Paraguay into Argentina, barely touching Brazil on its way. It’s characterized by sparse forest – South America’s second-largest – and grasslands and has high levels of biodiversity, home to around 3,000 plant, 500 bird, 220 reptile and amphibian, and 150 mammal species. It’s also a hotspot of deforestation as land is gobbled up and cleared for cattle ranches and cropland. Satellite data show that around 20 percent of the Gran Chaco has been converted into agricultural land since 1985. Increasingly, Paraguay has become a hotspot within this hotspot, with cattle pasture displacing forest at a rapid pace – even in areas that are officially protected. Satellite data visualized on the forest monitoring platform Global Forest Watch (GFW) alerted Mongabay to the possibility that the edges of Defensores del Chaco National Park (DCHNP), Paraguay’s largest reserve and one of the few large areas of primary forest left in the country, are being targeted in a new wave of deforestation. Mongabay’s Latin America bureau visited the area and confirmed that at least four tracts of protected land, each comprising around 100 hectares (1 square kilometer), have recently been cleared to make way for livestock. The clearing is happening within the park’s official buffer zone, which surrounds the park and, in doing so, forms part of it. Defensores del Chaco National Park contains one of the last Intact Forest Landscapes of Paraguay, which are areas of…

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